If your identity was stolen when you were a child, you could still act to protect your credit when you become aware of it as an adult.
Reader Diana writes that she has an account on her credit report that was opened by an identity thief. She, of course, wants to get this account off her report, but the account was opened when she was a minor, and she doesn’t know who did this. What should she do to get this account removed from her credit report?
Dispute the fraudulent account
A victim of identity theft should dispute with credit bureaus any fraudulent accounts that the thief has opened in your name. Providing documentation that the account was opened when you were a minor could help dispute the account.
However, merely establishing that you were a minor when the account was opened does not prove the invalidity of the account, says Rod Griffin, Experian’s director of consumer awareness and education.
“It’s possible for a minor to have a legitimate account reflected in their credit history, for example a parent may add a minor child as an authorized user,” Griffin says. “While Experian doesn’t knowingly collect information about minors, such accounts may be reported and appear in the credit history. If an account was opened legitimately, it might remain in the credit history.”
You could also provide a police report or other identity theft report you put in, and upload the documentation related to this. This would help the credit bureau to act to suppress this account from your credit report while the dispute process goes on.
You don’t need to know who stole your information – and most people won’t have this information – to file a police report. Unfortunately, it’s common enough for family members to perpetuate identity fraud against minors since they have your information. In such situations, victims are sometimes reluctant to file a police report.
“Family fraud is among the most challenging issues to resolve because of the emotional toll it takes,” Griffin said. “If the consumer is not willing to file a police report it may be difficult to remove the account as fraudulent.”
Also know that there could be legal consequences if you file a false police report. You won’t need to file a lawsuit to dispute the account, though.
Protecting your credit
There are other additional steps you should take beyond this. Contact the lender and inform it of the fraud. The lender might ask you for more information and require you to fill out a fraud affidavit.
It might want you to share documentation to establish your date of birth, as well as any other input to help resolve the issue. It will also have to initiate a dispute with the credit reporting agencies if you request that.
And if you are concerned the fraud might be ongoing, you should put in a fraud alert. This will put lenders on notice that they should verify your identity before granting credit to any application in your name, since there is an issue of identity fraud.
If you put in a fraud alert with one credit bureau, it will notify the other two as well. You could also remove the fraud alert whenever you are comfortable doing this. And when you put in this alert, you are also entitled to a free credit report so you can get current information about your credit.
Consider a credit freeze
Another step would be to freeze your credit. This means any lender who wants to extend credit to you will not be able to access your credit information to ascertain your creditworthiness. That would prevent it from extending credit to an identity thief.
You can also unfreeze your credit report in case you would like to apply for credit yourself. Merely putting in a credit freeze or fraud alert would not impact your credit score. Freezing and unfreezing your credit are both free services.
Unfortunately, too much information about consumers is available on the dark web, making it easy for fraudsters to tap into your personal information and set up fraudulent accounts.
They could combine your real information with falsified information and create a synthetic identity, which is the fastest growing financial crime in the U.S., according to the Federal Reserve. Minors’ input is also used a lot in such synthetic identity fraud.
Diana, it’s good that you are vigilant about your credit, and you should be able to get this fraudulent account off your report.